25 September 2010
Fernandes argues case for Team Lotus
Tony Fernandes insists that, while he would like to see Group Lotus come on board, Team Lotus is ready to move forward without it in 2011.
Lotus Racing CEO Tony Fernandes endured a tough time in the second FIA press conference of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, following his joyous announcement that the team would be rechristened Team Lotus from 2011.
The Malaysian, who earlier in the week revealed that he had secured GP2 and GP3 Series entries under the Team Air Asia banner, insisted that acquiring the Team Lotus moniker - and the history and heritage that went with it - was a legitimate move for his operation, even if it did not appear to have Group Lotus onside just yet. Whilst denying that there was any problem with the road car side of the Lotus brand - which, incidentally, announced its own GP2 Series tie-up with ART Grand Prix - Fernandes insisted that there was nothing he could do to increase its involvement in the F1 team.
"When Colin Chapman set up the company, there was Group Lotus, which manufactured cars, and there was Team Lotus, which was the racing team," he explained, "What we acquired was Team Lotus.
"This year, we operated under a licence from Group Lotus and, next year, we will operate under our own ownership. The chassis name still stays the same. I don't want to go into the legal side of it, but there were two separate companies and two very separate pools of goodwill. Of course, they co-operated and, of course, we would like to co-operate but, if Group Lotus doesn't want to, then there's not much we can do about it.
"That's not to say that they won't, I think it makes sense, and maybe the ownership will come under one anyway in due time. So there was co-operation, but there was never ownership and there was never racing by Group Lotus and, vice versa, Team Lotus never manufactured cars. I don't think that, if you look at the history of Team Lotus, there was much talking about the Esprit or the Elan - in fact, Group Lotus probably used the imagery of the F1 team a lot more.
"The door is always open [to Group Lotus getting involved]. It makes sense if they did. If I was sitting there and there was an F1 team going around the world with 20 races, promoting a brand, if I was the CEO, I would definitely want to get involved, especially if I'm not putting any money in it."
Refusing to comment on Group Lotus' decision to get involved with ART in opposition to his own GP2 programme, Fernandes revealed only that there had been no contact between his organisation and the French team. Team Air Asia joins Carlin as the two new entries for next season, replacing Durango and DPR respectively.
The airline boss also played dumb when questioned about Lotus' relationship with Renault which, although yet to be confirmed, is one that many in the F1 paddock expects to come online in 2011, especially now that current engine partner Cosworth has officially revealed that its ties to the Higham team would end after Abu Dhabi.
"We will make an announcement in due course," was all that Fernandes would say when pressed on the situation, and he was only slightly less enigmatic when it came to naming his drivers for next season.
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